News / Ottawa

War artist to tear up his art in protest

An artist who once painted war scenes for federal government is now tearing up his work in protest of the government.

Allan Harding MacKay tore up one of his paintings live on CBC Tuesday night and is planning to tear up four more on Parliament Hill Thursday.

"I'll do it within view of the Parliament Buildings and I'll just tear the four that are remaining," he told Metro.

His list of complaints includes the feds treating veterans and First Nations poorly and failing to protect the environment. He strongly objects to what he calls "very deliberate attempts to game the system of parliament," such as holding committee meetings behind closed doors and the practice of packing important legislation into a large omnibus bill, resulting in less debate.

"I just got to a point where I had to examine what kind of clout I have other than voting, signing petitions and making comments on websites," MacKay said. "I realized that I had artwork, which has its own kind of power, and destroying it would certainly gain attention—and shake people up to pay more attention to what the government is doing."

The five paintings belong to him, but would be worth about $25,000 if they were on the market, he said.

The Department of National Defense sent MacKay to Somalia with the Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artist program in 1993 and Afghanistan in 2002 to participate in the pilot launch of the Canadian Forces Artists Program.

National Defense spokesman Jay Paxton sent a statement to the CBC concerning the protest. "I encourage the artist to donate his works to charities or causes that he believes in rather than lose his works forever," the statement reads.

However, MacKay said his message will heard louder with the art's destruction.

The Canadian War Museum has 79 of his paintings, but has no comment on his protest.

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